Four Ways to Give Feedback to Supervisors

Michele Warg
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For an administrative professional, offering feedback to a supervisor can be a complicated and even uncomfortable process. In more modern workplace cultures, supervisors generally foster open environments in which all employees are encouraged to provide feedback and are made to feel their opinions are valuable. However, it is important to understand what kind of feedback is appropriate and how to deliver it effectively.

Do Not Overstep Your Bounds

When offering feedback to your supervisor, remember that you are speaking to someone above you in the workplace food chain. Do not risk damaging your relationship by overstepping your bounds. Be careful that you do not sound as if you are challenging your supervisor’s authority or criticizing his performance. You may have a good idea of what your supervisor’s work entails, but do not assume that you understand the demands of his position. Do not suggest what you would do if you were the supervisor. Instead, explore ways that you can work better together and figure out ways that you can help your supervisor make positive changes. When approaching a supervisor strategically, offering feedback with this mindset can be a good way to expand your role.

Give Feedback in Person and in Private

How you deliver feedback to a supervisor is crucial to how it is received. In all cases, it is always preferable to discuss professional performance in person; even the most carefully worded emails can be misinterpreted. If you have a specific issue in mind that you want to discuss with your supervisor, ask if you can schedule a time to talk privately. Never blurt out criticism of your supervisor in a public setting. Public criticism, particularly of someone in a superior role, can be extremely damaging to a working relationship.

Focus on the Positive

Remember that your supervisor is human and no one likes to hear negative feedback about his performance. When offering feedback, choose your words carefully, taking into consideration the personality of your supervisor and the nature of your working relationship. Make sure that if you are going to constructively criticize one area of performance, you praise other areas. This is a good practice for feedback from supervisors to their employees but especially for upward feedback. Speak your mind, but do not indulge in complaints about every little pet peeve, and remain mindful to make your comments polite and professional.

Be Specific

An administrative professional is not likely to have data-driven feedback for a supervisor, but it is smart to be as specific as possible. If there are specific behaviors that you want to address or improvements that you want to suggest, provide specific examples. Think carefully about what you say. Explaining to anyone, particularly a supervisor, how he could improve can be touchy. When offering feedback, make sure any specific suggestions are realistic before offering them. Focus on critical issues and do not ramble about ambiguous incidents.

Offering feedback to a supervisor can be extremely difficult territory to navigate. The most important thing to remember is that the way you articulate your feedback makes all the difference. Regardless of your status within a company, your perspective is valid and important, but you must take care to present it carefully, judiciously and with respectful professionalism.

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